Killing between 98 and 123 civilians in Iraqi Kurdistan in the last seven years, Turkish military actions have spread insecurity and instability in the region, forcing a number of families to leave their settlements and farms, new End Cross-Border Bombing Campaign (ECBBC) research reveals.
Published on 23 August, the report entitled Civilian Casualties of Turkish Military Operations in Northern Iraq details the devastating impact of Turkey’s offensive in Iraqi Kurdistan territories under the pretext of combating terrorism, particularly against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants positioned in the region.
Between August 2015 and the end of 2021, Turkey launched more than 4,000 aerial, artillery and ground attacks targeting several areas in Iraqi Kurdistan, according to the report.
Within this period, Turkish military actions caused at least 88 incidents, resulting in the deaths of 98 to 123 civilians, of which more than 55 were farmers and livestock owners killed while farming or tending their livestock.
Females made up 13 percent of those victims, while at least six children were killed with a further 14 injured due to the attacks by the Turkish forces, ECBBC documents, as well as an estimated 500 villages which were abandoned in the region.
The figures also show civilian harm is on the rise, highlighting that nearly half of these incidents ending in death or injury took place in 2020 and 2021. Accordingly, around 1,600 out of 4,000 military attacks were registered in 2021 alone.
The population in the areas being targeted by Turkish strikes since 2015 were mostly concentrated in mountain villages, practising agriculture and livestock breeding for a living. The continuous airstrikes, entailing “a tangible and all-too-frequent risk to their sustenance and even to their own life”, have forced many families to leave their homes whether in fear of their lives or due to the demolition of their settlement by the bombardments, the campaign group said in a press release.
The ECBBC report covers Turkey’s attacks from 2015 to the end of 2021. Offensives continued in 2022.
In July, Turkey bombarded the Zakho (Zaxo) district in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region of Iraq, killing nine Arab tourists, including women and children, and leaving 25 people wounded. A day of national mourning was declared in Iraq for the victims of the attack.
Turkey rebutted carrying out the strike. “Turkey took maximum care to avoid civilian casualties or damaging historic, cultural sites in its counter-terrorism operations against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militia and others,” the foreign ministry of Turkey said in a statement.
Turkey regularly carries out air strikes in northern Iraq as well as sending commandos to support the air strikes against militants of the PKK and The People’s Defence Units (YPG).